'Imagination will take you everywhere'
It’s surprising – considering my love of all things cultural – that I’ve never actually seen a proper theatre production (I don’t think the annual village pantomime counts). My friends were in disbelief when I admitted this – apparently you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a theatre production. After 18 years of my life, I decided it was jolly well time to start living. So it was with great excitement last Saturday that the Williams family set off for the mecca of all theatre productions: London’s West End to see Singin’ In The Rain. A critically acclaimed musical about the golden age of Hollywood during the roaring 20’s and the rise of the talkies when silent movies was the norm. Charles Spencer (The Daily Telegraph) has hailed it as the ‘ultimate feel-good show’ which ‘makes you feel better about life’, so I had to see if this was true. Of course with the extortionate ticket prices (which comes to an eye-watering total for six people), our little foray into the world of glitz and glamour had to be for a very special occasion indeed. And it was. For the outing marked mine and my twin sister’s 18th birthday. What better time to dive into the heady rush of the theatre?
After a chilly morning spent mooching around the chaos that is Portobello Market, viewing stall upon stall of quirky antiques and dreaming of living in one of the pearl white townhouses in Notting Hill, we walked up Shaftesbury Avenue to get to the famous Palace Theatre for a matinée performance. There were flashing theatre posters lining the street; all fighting for attention from the passers-by. Les Miserables, The Audience (starring Helen Mirren), We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time… but where was Singin’ in the Rain? As we walked further up the street, the theatres seemed to die out. I was beginning to feel disappointed (I thought The Palace Theatre was bound to be a tiny, scruffy building hidden down a back-street despite its pretentious name), but we then turned the corner and were met with something quite extraordinary. A gigantic yellow poster: Singin’ In The Rain, with colourful umbrellas popping out of the top… Wow. The Palace Theatre was a hugely grand building which oozed history, class and culture from the old red bricks.
The interior of the theatre was just as impressive. We climbed up the seemingly never-ending staircase to reach our seats on the upper balcony (the cheapest) and were met with rows of plush red velvet chairs at a rather steep descent towards the stage (it was lucky none of us were scared of heights). surprisingly we all had excellent views of the stage – bar the incessant movement of the person in front of us.
When the music began I was instantly transported into the world of old school Hollywood glamour, which was reinforced with the mesmirising set design and twinkling Hollywood sign. The singing was fantastic – particularly from Louise Bowden, who plays the modest star, Kathy Seldon. My favourite songs were Singin’ In The Rain (of course!), Good Mornin’ (so cheerful and upbeat) and You Are My Lucky Star; all of which were sung with gusto and verve. I loved the beautifully bright and sexy flapper dresses in the broadway scene, but most spectacular of all was the real sized plane which was wheeled onto the stage adorned with Cabaret singers – what a prop! The dancing was elegant and effortless with a mix of tap, lyrical, ballroom and jazz. The addition of water being sprayed onto the stage during the concluding scene with all members of the company dancing in the rain (literally) was utterly spellbinding. Not even the accidental break of an umbrella could dampen the spirits of the song. I particularly enjoyed hearing the shrieks of delight and giggles from the audience sat in the front row, as they were showered with water whilst the dancers kicked and spun their way through the water-clogged stage. When the show ended I was so enthralled with the production that I forgot the strict ‘No Photography’ rule and enthusiastically reached for my camera, before promptly being reminded by a member of staff about the rule, however I did manage to take a sneaky photo of the stage before the show began! We all left the theatre still entranced in the magical world of Singin’ In The Rain; the songs swirling in our minds. Next time the heavens open and people rush around under their umbrellas looking miserable, I will remember the final scene from the production, and maybe even have a little sing in the rain for myself.
My first introduction into the musical world was truly mesmirising, a performance I will never forget.